Shana returns with a focus on the parts of the original series that annoyed me the most, but at least it looks like it’s going to slowly go into the parts that I enjoyed the most at the end…
What They Say :
The return of the iconic anime about the spark between a hot-blooded huntress and a teenage boy, as they maintain the balance between the ordinary world and the supernatural. The heated bond between Shana and Yuji is tested as their paranormal adventures continue.
The Flame Haze fends off supernatural foes by night. By day, she contends with a classmate who’s also after Yuji’s heart. Emotions flare as a suspicious transfer student who resembles a recently defeated Denizen clings to Yuji. His training rises in intensity when they catch wind of a revered warrior in search of her lost lover… who will stop at nothing to extract the power keeping Yuji alive!
The Review :
The DVD release has a 5.1 English Dolby Track and a 2.0 Japanese Stereo Track – and as always on a two disc release I listened to both audio (Disc 1 in English, Disc 2 in Japanese). The English track is excellent with no transition issues or problems in connection with the subtitles, plus the audio is one of the cleanest I’ve heard in a while, it really does seem to impact so well that it’s really noticeable. The Japanese track is good as well (it seems a bit duller on the extras though which is a shame as the Shana-tan segments are hilarious), and as it does use the original cast compared to the English dub, it does add a bit more enjoyment for me just as a fan. The video quality I must admit does seem a bit grainy at times, watching it in widescreen format, the resolution doesn’t seem quite up to par compared to previous releases, and whilst certainly far from unwatchable, it does seem like it feels dull despite the imagery involved. No problems with the subtitles, or freezing up or causing colour failures during pausing or any general errors involved.
The menu on both discs have an artwork style Shana covering most of the menu on a white background, whilst the selections are below here with Play All, Episodes, Set Up and Extras. Easily accessible with no issues either from menu selection or from switching to the menu from the main show, fairly standard and nice to look at.
A few extras are on the two disc release which will please fans of both languages. On disc 1, we have a dub commentary on episode 1 from Chris George (ADR Engineer) Cherami Leigh(Shana) and Josh Grelle (Yuji). It is interested that they note about the fact this was one of the shows recovered from the Geneon collapse to Funimation and that they strived to get as close as to the original voice actors as possible, which is rare that a company does note this. It’s got a lot of banter still though and Cherami’s love for the sassy red head definitely shows through.
Disc 2 has a lot of extras for fans of the Japanese, specifically the return of the Shana-tan segments. For those who haven’t seen the Season 1 segments, we have a chibified Shana sitting on top of Yuji’s head with bits of melon bread always there, fighting for his love against a much more diabolical Kazumi – and has a much higher pitched noise with her trademark ‘Urusai!’ becomes ‘Ura-chai!’ It’s very funny, silly, adorable and in Kazumi’s case, wonderfully evil.
We also have four short segments known as ‘WHY? WHAT? SHANA! ASK ANYTHING QUESTION BOX’ which are hosted by Friagne and Marianne from the first season (and first episode dream sequence) which explain the mechanics of various things in the Shakugan No Shana universe, including ‘Mare’ (about the latest villain), ‘Keepers’ (for protection), ‘Outlaws’ (how they back up flame hazes) and ‘Silver’ (the flames of an armoured Denizen dispensed in mystery). They are all about 4 minutes long, and are both fun and informative as it does help those who haven’t seen the first season or not seen it in a while catch up and learn the physics and terminology of the world.
Lastly we have the two opening songs for Shana in textless format, as well as some TV Promos and Trailers for the Japanese DVD release. The Shana-tan extras steal the show of a good bunch, seeing Kazumi scheme and be delightfully cute and evil as well as chibi Shana throwing melon bread at her is just a delight.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Shana is one of those series I saw years ago and knew I had to get back into remembering things from the first season. What I remembered mostly was that a lot of my friends absolutely loved this series, and I found myself indifferent to it but was unsure why. Watching Season 2 however showcased why – Shana has its very good points, but also some very not so good points. And sadly for most of the first set, the things that I didn’t enjoy about Shana take full force here, though by the end it does suggest that things are about to get more interesting…
The show does actually start off with almost a recap episode in a way to bring fans from the show back to speed, and also for those who haven’t seen the first season to try and understand the main focus of the plot. Shana is a Flame Haze, a warrior destined to attack beings known as Denizen’s, who replace human beings with empty shells around the world – she has made a unique pact with a human male named Yuji – in the first season, it revolved around his power that allows him to resurrect every night as his ‘torch’ (basically their soul) keeps regenerating, despite the fact he’s practically dead and known as the Midnight Lost Child. Unfortunately, this fact is not really explained in this season so whilst the concept of Mystes and Denziens is talked about, Shana’s connection with Yuji isn’t – which leads us to the main problem of the first half of the release.
After the introductory episode, the focus is not made of Yuji and Shana’s relationship on the battlefield, but more on the potential romantic saga that was involved between him, Shana and fellow classmate Kazumi. This resulted in a lot of comic episodes in Season 1 which were usually short interludes as Kazumi got more involved with the plot, it integrated well with the battle sequences. Here, the focus is far more on the romantic side, and I have to say it isn’t done very well. They introduce a new character, Konoe, who is a dead ringer for the main villain of Season 1, Hecate. At first, their suspicions involve fighting other Denizens and see if she is indeed Hecate, but it appears that she is simply a normal girl. Of course, the girl also gets very attached to Yuji, hence the even more suspicion by both Shana and Kazumi, and the two girls getting conflicting and jealous emotions. The episodes for the most part simply focus on Shana trying to become more human, learning how to cook from Yuji’s mother Chigusa, whilst her maid and bodyguard Willihemia also gets conflicting emotions that Shana seems to get more personal advice from Chigusa rather than herself.
What the show does at least on the first disc is make the viewer focus on Shana as she tries to depart from her warrior side and now focus on her relationship with Yuji. Whilst the battling side isn’t completely gone thanks to Willihemia’s training with Yuji, even that is glossed over due to the fact Willihemia (a badass maid from Season 1) has her own concerns of her lack of womanhood. Add to that even adding romantic triangles and squares with Konoe, and Yuji’s friend Ike’s crush on Kazumi, the main problem is the fact Shana is turning into a high school comedy, and sadly not a very good one. The emotions fall very flat, especially with Shana who isn’t really behaving as the Shana I remember. Granted, characters do develop and change, and her interest in Yuji was always there, but the fact there are several moments of her moping, joining forces with Kazumi, talking with Chigusa, it doesn’t engage me with her character knowing what I know. The romantic parts do fall rather flat, especially if you haven’t seen the first season as you won’t know what Yuji is like aside from his training, you’d think he would be a stereotypical anime male lead.
The second disc does however suggest there is more going to happen, as the welcome return of Shana’s rival Marjory Daw and the learning’s of her past as she tells Yuji’s classmates Satou and Eita, and how the similarities of a young man similar to Yuji caused him to get killed because of her enemies’ mysterious silver flame…which Yuji has shown signs of emitting as well. And whilst the elements of romance still go through (one episode we get Yuji’s returning father actually talk to Shana and Kazumi about their feelings for Yuji) with the cultural festival, it does lead to a pretty good climax with the return of Pheles, so at the very least, it has set up nicely to where Shana does shine.
I think my main problem I have is that when I saw the first season and how widely loved it was, I was mostly underwhelmed. The action sequences were excellent, the plot and characterization was complex, but the elements of trying to make her a school girl I felt either didn’t work for her character, or it was trying too hard to get Yuji involved with his powers with Kazumi. In this selection, his powers are very briefly called upon from the original series and whilst you know he is special with that silver flame, his original reason for why he is involved with Shana is barely glossed(I had to double check on my previous notes to make sure I was right). At least on the first disc, I couldn’t tell if the show was trying to be a sequel, an action series or a romantic comedy. It didn’t explain well enough for new watchers, there wasn’t enough action to justify Shana’s skills, and the romantic elements fell flat. Aside from her relevance to Hecate, Konoe is just there as a potential rival for Yuji, and Yuji himself is very glossed over as a character aside from his training sequences.
However, the saving grace of the series is that it does end well, there is big potential now the return of a major villain has occurred, the mystery elements of Yuji’s silver flames link to a potential plot with Marjory, who also in her few non-drunk sequences you can see what she was like as a Flame Haze and just how much of an in-depth character she is or was. The past sequences between Marjory and Yuri reflect with Satou quite well as he’s debating on whether to join her in the potential battle ahead, and I’m glad the anime reminds us of this…because most of this release she has been treated as a drunken joke, so the potential is actually quite high. Yuji being so confused about this silver flame and the overall mystery of it does over potential and hopefully the second half will slowly descend into the elements of Shana I really did enjoy. As it stands, most of the first disc could be skipped and could just have the flashbacks to Marjory’s past and the school festival part, because for me, the rest felt very dragging and not interesting.
Shana is one of those mysteries that whilst I liked, did feel it was a bit overrated. Season 2 continues to follow the trend, but at a worse rate due to the almost forced nature of the romantic issues between Yuji, Shana and Kazumi. The addition of Konoe didn’t help and whilst not painful, the majority of the first disc didn’t feel like a Shana series. The second disc does pick it up by looking into Marjory’s past, and whilst there are still a lot of elements which felt slow and unnecessary at this point, it ends in a cliffhanger which at least gives me good enough reason to pick up the next part.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Audio Commentary, Nani Naze, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: MVM Entertainment
Release Date: March 4th, 2013
Running Time: 300 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.